Obama, Romney hit battleground states big, small

11th hour arrives with blitz for votes

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CONCORD, N.H. -- President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney clashed Sunday over who could deliver change to a gridlocked nation as they crisscrossed the country on the second-to-last day of campaigning in a race that remains too close to call.

No battleground state was too small for a personal visit -- by noon Mr. Obama had appeared in New Hampshire, which has just four electoral votes, and Mr. Romney was campaigning in Iowa, which has only six.

But they also went for the bigger prizes, as Mr. Obama spoke in Ohio and Florida, and Mr. Romney visited Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Mr. Romney sharpened his attack on Mr. Obama's handling of the economy, saying the president "cared more about a liberal agenda than he did about repairing the economy."

In Des Moines, Iowa, he belittled Mr. Obama's record, asking the audience estimated at 1,440 in a convention center whether it believed that Mr. Obama's health care law created jobs.

"Did his war on coal, oil and gas create jobs?" Mr. Romney said. "Does raising taxes put people to work?"

He painted a bleak picture of America under Mr. Obama, charging that four more years would lead to "lower take-home pay, higher prices for gasoline, for health insurance, for food, for clothing."

Mr. Romney cast himself as an agent of change, saying Mr. Obama promised change, but didn't deliver.

"I not only promise change, I have a record of achieving it," Mr. Romney said.

Earlier Sunday, in New Hampshire with former President Bill Clinton at his side, Mr. Obama sought to reprise the glory days of the Clinton years while telling an enthusiastic if chilled crowd outside the gold-domed New Hampshire state Capitol that Mr. Romney represents a return to failed policies.

"New Hampshire, we know our ideas work," Mr. Obama told an audience estimated at 14,000. "We tried them and they worked for middle class families. We tried giving big tax cuts to the wealthiest, and what did we get? Falling incomes and record deficits that we've been cleaning up ever since."

Mr. Obama's campaign rhetoric belied the fact that incomes have dropped on his watch, too, and dropped more since the end of the recession than during it. Also, he has presided over the four largest budget deficits in history, adding to the national debt rather than reducing it.

At the close, Mr. Obama shook hands along with Mr. Clinton as the former president's 1992 campaign anthem, "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" blared from loudspeakers.

As the candidates worked the voters, strategists for both sides took to TV and Twitter, seeking to exude confidence about winning a race that is going to come down to who best can get their voters to the polls.

A Pew Research Center poll released Sunday found Mr. Obama with an edge nationally, 48 percent to 45 percent. A Washington Post-ABC News tracking poll found the two deadlocked among likely voters nationally, at 48 percent. The poll also found them tied among political independents at 46 percent. Mr. Obama had trailed Mr. Romney among the key group of voters.

Polls in the small swing states showed one race too close to call and another breaking for Mr. Obama.

A Des Moines Register Iowa poll showed Mr. Obama leading Mr. Romney by 47 percent to 42 percent. In New Hampshire, the Granite State Poll showed a tie. Two weeks ago, Mr. Obama led by 8 percentage points.

Also Sunday, Mr. Obama appeared at a high school in Hollywood, Fla., and at an indoor rally in Cincinnati with Stevie Wonder. He was to end the day at a community college in Aurora, Colo., with rocker Dave Matthews.

Mr. Romney stopped in Cleveland, where his campaign plane taxied past Air Force Two carrying Vice President Joe Biden, before heading for Pennsylvania.

The two sides battled it out on the Sunday talk shows as well, with strategists from each camp insisting his candidate would win.

Obama adviser David Plouffe said Mr. Obama's ground game would push the president over the top in the battleground states. He called Mr. Romney's sudden Pennsylvania trip "a desperate ploy at the end of a campaign," noting that Mr. Obama has "been working there for two years."

Romney adviser Ed Gillespie compared the visit to Mr. Obama's trip to Indiana in 2008. Indiana was then viewed as a Republican stronghold, but Mr. Obama ended up winning it.

"The map has expanded," Mr. Gillespie said.

nation - electionspresident


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